I’ve heard the phrase “love is the law” thrown around a lot in Witchcraft and Pagan circles. I’ve never really understood why we Witches hold on to this phrase. It doesn’t really feel like it belongs here. For a long time I’ve wondered what if love is not the law? Does that change the practice of Witchcraft?
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law” and “Love is the Law, love under will” are the original phrases coined in the writings of Aleister Crowley. These concepts don’t originate in Wicca, and really, they don’t originate with Crowley either, but he did bring them to the forefront of esoteric teaching in this writings Liber AL. These concepts are the main beliefs in Thelema. And, perhaps unsurprising, there are years and years of debate on what these ‘rules’ actually mean.
The basic underpinnings of these words, and the system of Thelema, is that people should be allowed to do whatever they want, but only if they are acting from a place of true center and wholeness. The reason being that if someone is in true alignment with the Universe, they won’t do anything ‘wrong’. It’s a little bit like spiritual anarchy. (And yes, this is a very simplified version of this complex concept. My purpose is not to go into the depths of Thelema here.)
But Thelema isn’t the only system that spoke of love being the law. This is also a Christian concept. In the Bible, 1 John 5: 1-8 it is written “All you need is love”. Further reading in this part of the Bible states that love is God and all goodness comes to you from being in love with God.
These ideas have always felt a little too easy, too simple, and (dare I say it) too twee.
Is Love the Law?
I find that Pagans throw around the phrase “love is the law” at times when there is community trouble. It becomes a rallying cry to bring in more openness and understanding. “Love is the law” has become a mantra for keeping peace.
Yes, love can make us care for others, but love also hurts. The highest highs and the lowest lows come from feelings of love. Love can spin us out, make us obsessive, and have us act out of character. It’s not all wine and roses. But we say love is the law, like it’s so easy, like those words should be a balm on a broken heart. I must be allergic to this type of medicine because it doesn’t work for me.
Should Love Rule?
What about compassion? What about truth? What about honesty? What about balance? Are there better “Laws” that we could follow.
Just look at the meaning behind some of these words:
- Love: an intense feeling of deep affection.
- Compassion: concern for the suffering of others.
- Truth: in accordance with fact.
- Honesty: free of deceit and untruthfulness.
- Balance: a condition in which different elements are equal.
Much of modern Witchcraft and Paganism is rooted in concepts that were written about in the early to mid 1900s, although the origins of these concepts come from much older esoteric ideas and systems. We have to remember that for most of history esoteric and philosophical concepts were debated. Nothing is set in stone and even more confusing, there isn’t one right answer.
Magick, Witchcraft, and Paganism aren’t static things with clear and defined rules. (Thank the Gods for that!) Maybe it’s time we begin exploring some of the phrases. Personally, I want to start looking at the ‘rules’ of my practice to see if they still apply. And more, if they do/don’t apply, why? It’s time we stop taking magickal rules for granted and explore personal truths.